Alfonso Jones

Significance Article: The sustainability of human populations

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I was reading in Significance yesterday. This is a magazine sent to Fellows of the Royal Statistical Society. Therein I found an article titled "The sustainability of human populations: How many people can live on earth?"

I thought I'd share a short excerpt from the article:

"Humans will not willingly sacrifice their comfortable lifestyles for the greater good (especially for the greater good of other countries), so it must be taken from them, either through legal restrictions or, failing that, by nature through the misery and deprivation tha must inevitably follow decades of collective waste and overconsumption."

Someday I will cease to be amazed at what people will say or write in seemingly polite language. I don't look forward to that day.

Alfonso

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I was reading in Significance yesterday. This is a magazine sent to Fellows of the Royal Statistical Society. Therein I found an article titled "The sustainability of human populations: How many people can live on earth?"

My guess: twenty billion. Maybe more. The crowed lifestyle may not be to your liking or taste, but it is possible.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I was reading in Significance yesterday. This is a magazine sent to Fellows of the Royal Statistical Society. Therein I found an article titled "The sustainability of human populations: How many people can live on earth?"

My guess: twenty billion. Maybe more. The crowed lifestyle may not be to your liking or taste, but it is possible.

Ba'al Chatzaf

By the time we reach 20 billion on earth, I hope some of us will have started to go elsewhere in the universe.

Jim

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I was reading in Significance yesterday. This is a magazine sent to Fellows of the Royal Statistical Society. Therein I found an article titled "The sustainability of human populations: How many people can live on earth?"

My guess: twenty billion. Maybe more. The crowed lifestyle may not be to your liking or taste, but it is possible.

Ba'al Chatzaf

We have 1.5 billion in China, in area about the size of the USA. And many regions are severely underpopulated (in the northwest, primarily).

Alfonso

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I was reading in Significance yesterday. This is a magazine sent to Fellows of the Royal Statistical Society. Therein I found an article titled "The sustainability of human populations: How many people can live on earth?"

My guess: twenty billion. Maybe more. The crowed lifestyle may not be to your liking or taste, but it is possible.

Ba'al Chatzaf

By the time we reach 20 billion on earth, I hope some of us will have started to go elsewhere in the universe.

Jim

Agreed on that. But the sort of thinking in the article I quote is of the form "If man doesn't invent anything to improve the situation, if all things (except population size) remain constant, then what will happen..." And "what should THOSE IN CHARGE WHO HAVE ABSOLUTE POWER do to constrain population growth, consumption, through force?"

Stuff for the Horror File.

Alfonso

Alfonso

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By the time we reach 20 billion on earth, I hope some of us will have started to go elsewhere in the universe.

Jim

All we can do in that time span is (maybe) erect habitats on the Moon and possibly on Mars. Life on the Moon and Mars is really not sustainable (no water in either place). Forget about terraforming Mars. It is too expensive and does not have a sufficient payback. Mars lost its atmosphere because of its low mass and lack of a magnetosphere. There is little we can do to change either of those factors.

Master Yodah says: Do not your breath hold until colonize the solar system we do, else blue turn you will.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I was reading in Significance yesterday. This is a magazine sent to Fellows of the Royal Statistical Society. Therein I found an article titled "The sustainability of human populations: How many people can live on earth?"

My guess: twenty billion. Maybe more. The crowed lifestyle may not be to your liking or taste, but it is possible.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Why not a population implosion? That's more likely and more worrisome.

--Brant

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Bob; Didn't Robert Heinlien po-po the population explosion? I recall a quote from him. The world population seems to leveling off anyway.

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Bob; Didn't Robert Heinlien po-po the population explosion? I recall a quote from him. The world population seems to leveling off anyway.

If so, it is probably for the best. I don't particularly like crowds.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Back in the 60's Atherton Press compiled a series of articles on this subject, on natural regulation of animal populations. Several writers surveyed known animal populations over the previous hundred years or so, and noticed a pattern that appeared to be malthusian, in that an incremental increase in resources appeared to trigger an exponential increase in populations. After shooting sky high, the population would outstrip resources, destroy their environment, and fall to a bare subsistence level, far below the previous stasis level, until the environment recovered. The population would then have a chance to return to its previous stasis level. The population growth curves actully looked like a human heartbeat as represented by an EKG. (Of course if the environment was taxed beyond recovery, it resulted in the creature's extinction.)

During that time everyone and his brother-in-law was advocating drastic measures for the supposed "overpopulation" that was happening in human society. Of course, nothing of the sort was happening; at the time it was just over-concentrations of population in a few pockets where the people with the biggest mouths lived. But I took the bait and started to figure out what the result would be if the then-current population projections were accurate. What I came up with (in 68) was this: that in 300 years, every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth could have 6 acres of land for their own exclusive use and possession. At the time I was making these calculations, it took nearly an acre of land to produce all the products needed for an individual; I projected that by that time, technological advance would reduce that requirement to under a 1/4 of an acre, most of it renewable. That's it. Of the 6 acres for each individual, 5-3/4 acres would be virtually unused. Nearly 96% of the earth's land surface would be empty under theoretical "overpopulation" conditions. And that isn't even happening. The problem now is that, compared to the projections, the world is virtually uninhabited; the resources are just being handled so badly.

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The point I was trying to remember from Heinlin was exactly this. Humans badly managed their resources. A higher population is sustainable if resources are better managed.

Zero population growth was a very bad idea. It is worth noting that in much of Europe the population is actually declining. The same is true of Japan. China's one child policy is leading to the same effect.

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Zero population growth was a very bad idea. It is worth noting that in much of Europe the population is actually declining. The same is true of Japan. China's one child policy is leading to the same effect.

What is wrong with zero population growth? Or with a declining population?

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Zero population growth was a very bad idea. It is worth noting that in much of Europe the population is actually declining. The same is true of Japan. China's one child policy is leading to the same effect.

What is wrong with zero population growth? Or with a declining population?

Eventually economic growth halts and stagnation sets in. This is particularly true in economies that rely on consumer purchase rather than producers to energize the system

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Rome didn't last long after the population started declining.

Rome was dependent on human labor, particularly slave labor. There were no machines or other automata to act as force multipliers and control mechanisms. A population with only a few folks and a lot of robots could sustain itself for a long time. As long as there was enough skill maintained to fix or replace broken robots it would work. Such was not the case with Rome.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Zero population growth was a very bad idea. It is worth noting that in much of Europe the population is actually declining. The same is true of Japan. China's one child policy is leading to the same effect.

What is wrong with zero population growth? Or with a declining population?

In many societies, the young economically support the old. In the USA, there is the social security system - in which funds paid by those working today go to support those now retired. In China, the young send money to their parents. In either case, a declining population means a declining ratio young/old which means fewer people supporting more.

Since it may be necessary to avoid prolonged discussion on the subject: The above paragraph is not to be taken as an endorsement of these economic arrangements and all that accompanies them - merely a reflection on current reality.

Alfonso

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Zero population growth was a very bad idea. It is worth noting that in much of Europe the population is actually declining. The same is true of Japan. China's one child policy is leading to the same effect.

What is wrong with zero population growth? Or with a declining population?

In many societies, the young economically support the old. In the USA, there is the social security system - in which funds paid by those working today go to support those now retired. In China, the young send money to their parents. In either case, a declining population means a declining ratio young/old which means fewer people supporting more.

Since it may be necessary to avoid prolonged discussion on the subject: The above paragraph is not to be taken as an endorsement of these economic arrangements and all that accompanies them - merely a reflection on current reality.

Alfonso

Which, as it turns out, is the real reason for the "open borders" movement and the 20-30 million illegal immigrants the current administration wants to make instant citizens. Due to the American Holocaust of abortion, over 47 million people who would have been born in the past generation under other circumstances, and over 120 million in the next generation, will never be. That's 167 million taxpayers, gone, poof, into thin air, and their physical remains sold as dog food. That's why the politicians think we need a massive infusion of new taxpaying citizens, and it doesnt matter if they speak english, it doesnt matter if they're educated -- because the next generation will be, at our expense, it doesnt matter if they believe in the American way or capitalism, or freedom, or anything at all, because by that time, as far as the politicians are concerned, we'll all be dead. That's the great ideal -- a new generation of milch cows, to pay our social security, and after that we die, and what we leave behind is their problem. Free trade, it's a beautiful thing.

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Steve; I guess you're against open borders. Joe Duarte gave an excellent talk at the Objectivist Center Summer Seminar 2007 on the immigration "problem".

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No matter what Objectivists tell me, I know from experience that immigration can indeed become a very big problem. Theory is one thing, but reality may be quite another thing.

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Steve; I guess you're against open borders. Joe Duarte gave an excellent talk at the Objectivist Center Summer Seminar 2007 on the immigration "problem".

Chris

In my salad days, when I accepted the whole objectivist/libertarian lines more consistently, I believed in the benefits of the free flow of goods and services, and the total freedom of anyone to associate with anyone they choose.

This works all fine and dandy provided the society is made up only of rational adults, but as a matter of fact, it isn't. And you can't base the application of your principles on woulda-coulda-shoulda-and-if-the-queen-had-balls-she'd-be-king. It doesn't work. If you try to do that, you end up believing in a eutopia myth, similar to the communist concept of the "end of history", that is, their end of the historical hegelian dialectic, in which the state "just withers away". It's not gonna happen. So you're left with a bunch of wreckage of human lives, for which a blind application of your (my) principles is responsible, and the people responsible (you and me) refusing to accept responsibility. I see this as a repetitive motif in human history, and I don't see objectivism or libertarianism as being immune from it.

Great. We're turning the only philosophical foundations for a free productive society into a justification for parasitism, gang warfare, slavery and human trafficking. Just what we need.

And would it have been worth it, after all,

After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,

Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,

Would it have been worth while,

To have bitten off the matter with a smile,

To have squeezed the universe into a ball

To roll it toward some overwhelming question,

To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—

If one, settling a pillow by her head,

Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.

That is not it, at all.”

from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", T.S.Eliot, 1917

===============

BTW, is there a synopsis of the seminar available online?

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~ Re the question "How many people can live on earth?" (per Alfonso's concern), I suspect that there's no inherent limit.

~ Hell, if there're only 2, and they're Hitler and Tojo, even 2 can't...eventually, given a long enough life for them.

~ Barring Malthus' concerns (which are more limited in the argued limitations than they appear, though he was right...for the knowledge of his time [aka: 'contextually'!]), Attilas' running V-2 descendents with nukes, increasingly inefficient bureaucracies, etc. (ie: all possible human foibles to forestall human improvements)...then, re the 'can' in the original question, as many humans as can exist by (pick your time) are how many 'can' live on earth. Food probs (re land area) I see as not a limitation either. That leaves the prob of 'space'/land-occupation use.

~ Heinlein was mentioned. Think Asimov's 'Trantor', a planet-city.

LLAP

J:D

Edited by John Dailey

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Alfonso:

~ Re your quoting, I disagree with the prognostication as much as I disagreed with the Vatican's 2 decades ago. Yes, there'll always be 'takings', gang-wise or 'govt'-wise from others. Ntl, consider ancient Greece (nm Rome) times re 'the world', and, what *we* have now re advancements in, and knowledge about what makes, 'civilization'.

~ Some say there's no 'improvement' worth talking about (especially in Ethics/Morality.) I say there is, though little (all things considered over the time-perspective.) Our species is no longer ONLY 'tribes' fighting a la Hatfield-McCoys.

~ We're getting there...in spite of (too many of) ourselves. We may not 'make it'...but, that's a may not, not a won't.

LLAP

J:D

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If you had a huge amount of resources how many children would you want? I was thinking about the Mormons with their many wives. I heard of men who donated their sperm so they could sire more brilliant kids into the gene pool to increase the general intelligence level.  Peter

From: "Dennis May" <determinism To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: For an Individualist Military Philosophy Date: Sat, 13 Oct 2001 00:10:16 -0500 I wrote: >I have read the Objectivist arguments concerning how the mind of man will overcome resource depletion and overpopulation.  I agree with many things which are said along the way while disagreeing with the final conclusions.  Malthusian population theory (geometric growth) is freshman mathematics not to be denied.  Social factors may curtail growth, if not, the realities of the natural world certainly will. Disease, warfare, environment, competition, starvation, etc. will take care of the problem if not social factors.

I would like to expand upon the details concerning population growth. From the [freshman] college textbook "Calculus" by James Stewart Second Edition 1991: . . . . An example is then provided where 1,000 bacteria become 2,500 in two hours, 15,625 in six hours.

Many factors can blunt the natural exponential increase in reproductive life forms.  In modern nations education and rising financial expectations combined with confiscatory taxation have lead to declining birth rates and in some nations actual declines in total population.  This has occurred over two human generations, hardly a significant trend relative to the entire history of humanity or relative to the explosive changes possible during exponential growth.  Societal factors only apply to individuals in some societies, certainly not to all individuals or all societies.  One of my friends in the Air Force had a grandfather with some fifty four children by various girlfriends and wives.  My own grandfather is rumored to have had approximately thirty children besides the six at home.  The factor k in exponential growth is an average over the population at a given instant.  In human populations k will change with every religious, social, economic, political, and technological change which comes along.  Those with high reproductive rates quickly overtake those with low reproductive rates all else being equal.  Over short time frames minor fluctuations may appear to invalidate exponential growth.  In reality the process will self correct and exponential growth soon returns.

 I

n the space model, the volume occupied can only expand at a rate determined by the maximum speed you can travel in space [time measure from your original reference frame].  Several years ago I wrote several small computer programs with many scenarios.  Simple graphing shows exponential growth overcomes any ability to expand your resources no matter how fast you travel in space. Individuals who never slow down to reproduce or use resources never feel the population pinch, just everyone behind them.  It seems unlikely that it is possible to accelerate indefinitely without running into problems of collisions with ever energetic debris and gases.  It would also seem a very distant dream to be able to synthesize everything you need from just the atoms collected in the near vacuum of space as you travel.  Even the most nomadic people in space are likely to stop and smell the roses occasionally.  Two solutions: tight control over population or dog-eat-dog exponential growth and fights over resources in a never ending cold war.  Tight control is an unstable scenario, the endless cold war provides the only stable solution I could find.  I would be interested in any other solutions others can find. Dennis May

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